When Chad Demers was working his full-time job in the Air Force the last four years, he often found himself daydreaming about another opportunity.
"Those jobs weren't horrible, but I always knew I wanted to get back into hockey," the former Grafton-Park River and Air Force Academy standout said. "At work, all I would think about is hockey and the chance to get into hockey and be in that atmosphere again, and be part of a team again, and having a goal to aim at, and going through the day-to-day grind of trying to outwork and outplan your opponent. That's so much fun for me. I knew that's what I wanted to do."
Nothing has stood in the way of Demers achieving that goal -- not even Stage 4 brain cancer.
The Grafton, N.D., product, who has been fighting Glioblastoma since last fall, was named the newest full-time assistant coach and scouting director of the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League.
Demers will join an all-North Dakota coaching staff that includes head coach Pierre-Paul Lamoureux of Grand Forks and associate head coach Eli Rosendahl of Grand Forks. The team's general manager is former UND forward and assistant coach Cary Eades.
They are very familiar with Demers -- not only from watching him lead the Spoilers to a North Dakota state boys high school championship in 2008 and from his playing days with the Force (2008-11). Demers also volunteered with the Force coaching staff last season.
"It was a great experience for me," Demers said. "I'm definitely appreciative and thankful for the staff there to allow me to be a fly on the wall and be a part of everything without a lot of limitations. I was able to be on the ice for practice, I was able to sit in on meetings and be in on discussions, practice planning, the draft process. . . last year, for me, was more of a sit and watch and learn.
"It was a really good experience. The guys I was learning from have quite the pedigree. I was fortunate to be a part of a staff like that and see how they go about their business every day and see what I could model my coaching style after."
"I could not ask for a better place to start my coaching career and I embrace the challenge of bringing a Clark Cup back to the city of Fargo" - Chad Demers on officially joining the Force coaching staff. More on https://t.co/Ux5iCBIoOm pic.twitter.com/phRjJwUvMs— Fargo Force (@FargoForce) July 3, 2019
Demers received a medical retirement from the Air Force in late June because of his cancer, allowing him to pursue this full-time opportunity with the Force.
Demers finished radiation in November and completed Chemotherapy in May. He still returns to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., every six weeks for follow-up scans.
Doctors originally told Demers he probably had less than two years to live. But after receiving a pathology report back from Mayo, they found that Demers has a rare IDH mutation, which generally extends lifespans in Glioblastoma patients.
Demers said there's currently no cure for his cancer. He's hoping for a medical breakthrough.
In the meantime, he's going full-speed ahead with his hockey coaching career. Demers said he is already planning to center scouting trips around his Mayo appointments.
"They've been very supportive and accommodating to my various appointments," Demers said. "I'll work with Pierre to figure out the schedule as far as making sure I'm getting my job done with the team as well as taking care of myself and getting all of my medical appointments done. On the occasion that I do have appointments, I can turn them into scouting trips, too."
St. Cloud State assistant coach Nick Oliver, a former teammate of Demers' in Fargo, vouched for the hire.
"This is a home-run hire for the entire @FargoForce organization!" Oliver wrote in a tweet. "These players will be fortunate to learn from Chad's passion and knowledge of the game."
This is a home-run hire for the entire @FargoForce organization! These players will be fortunate to learn from Chad's passion and knowledge of the game. Also the best #badangleshot taker I've ever played with! @CDemmy17 https://t.co/LSIBbeVZMH— Nick Oliver (@N_Oliver27) July 3, 2019